Starting Price: 60000 USD
Price realized: 92500 USD
Great Britain. Five Guineas, 1688. S.3398; Fr-293; KM-460.2. James II, 1685-1688. First laureate bust left, royal hallmark of Elephant & Castle below. Reverse: Crowned cruciform arms, with alternating scepters at angles. QUARTO edge. An ideally centered coin with the portrait (and hallmark) in bold relief and the royal shield evenly struck. A few abrasions in the soft gold are all minuscule. Lovely mint-fresh luster gives the coin a sparklingly attractive look, with great eye appeal. One of the finest examples known of this large, classic British gold coin. PCGS graded MS-61. WINGS. Estimate Value $60,000 - UP
The gold used to produce this large coin of a relatively new denomination (1668 being the first year such a coin was struck) was mined in Guinea, on the Gold Coast of Africa. English gold from the 1660s onward took its name from this place of origin. The yellow ore was imported by the Royal African Company-the reason being that this precious metal, long the basis for insuring the value of coinage, was in short supply in the kingdom. The company required the Royal Mint to place its badge, the sideways image of an elephant, plainly in view beneath the monarch's portrait. It is fair to say that the Royal Mint had quite a task on its hands, producing thick gold coins of this size. Consistency was a problem. Many coins were struck off-center, and not evenly on all the legends and motifs. Initially the company's hallmark was simply the elephant, being the official badge of the company, but within a few years this distinctive mark came to feature a castle riding upon the elephant (the symbolism being obvious), and indeed this re-design was seen at the time as being more regal. Historically, these coins were not known as "5 guineas" in their day but rather were called after their weight. Initially, the golden guinea was worth 20 shillings (and thus called a "pound sterling"). This largest denomination was worth a staggering 100 shillings. It was the equivalent of months of a laborer's wages. Most of the king's subjects never saw one of these coins, only the aristocracy and bankers. Yet, most 5-guineas coins show commercial wear, so their usefulness in banking and larger commercial transactions clearly was significant. Survival of a coin of the quality seen in this lot was merely a matter of chance, because almost all coins of the guinea series were later melted to produce modern coins. Here indeed is a glitteringly beautiful example of one of the greatest of all British gold coins, with a hallmark that explains its very name.